Sorry for not posting for a few days - very busy right now...
I have some understanding of how small businesses suffer as my mom owns one - she has all sorts of hastle be it tax, employment regulations, the books and so on.... crazy, crazy world. I always say to her that I wish I had her tax bill - but I don't think she appreciates this! Actually one of her businesses is in need of a new website - the current one is awful - but she will not spend much at all on it as she has no clue about such things.... do you have any friends that do generic-ish websites? (www.druidinnbirchover.co.uk) the place looks totally different too as we've spent a fortune giving it a complete refurb....
Our government is just slightly more efficient than the EU on watching these things (and I am pro-EU - but they pour so much money down the drain on dubious RD exercises - and academic networks for that matter! I wont get into that....
I make this point in the Downing St. article - websites change rationale yet noone reviews or questions whether it is worth fublic funding and I also dont think anyone checks to make sure they are meeting their own guidelines....
I am trying to get my head around a moderation question right now - what is legitimate? There is obviously a big theoretical debate between free speech and regulation which for forums comes down to no mod, pre-mod, post-mod and then if you are moderating how do you determine the level of this?
This is the Hansard Society's review of Citizen Space:
"The disastrous policy of ‘silent’ moderation prevented the moderators from either responding to direct questions or explaining why they were not responding. The moderators, an independent company appointed by the Cabinet Office, were seen by users as arrogant and unlistening. Furthermore, in deciding a policy of never responding to any comments, the moderators are unable to explain their operational management of the site, so there is no proactive attempt to steer the discussion, appeal for better behaviour by participants or explain deletions of messages. Users of the site have developed a conspiratorial picture of the moderators. Much of the discussion is about the moderators and how to beat them. On one occasion personal information about moderators appeared online. This is unavoidable unless the current policy is abandoned and the moderators become vocal participants with an accountable role.
Ultimately, the Citizenspace experiment lacked a clear purpose or connection to Government policy-making. For a handful of enthusiasts it provided an outlet for ill-informed opinion, prejudice and abuse. For most users, it held out the promise of interaction with Government, but proved to be a one-way street leading nowhere."
So this was taken down and for the e-democracy consultation the forum was set up differently with pre-mod. this time moderated by Hansard themselves - this is what they said in their findings:
"Once the forum was seeded with a number of SERIOUS messages, a number of contributors entered the forum to complain about the closure of the old Citizenspace forums and to express a good deal of distrust about the Government’s commitment to using the internet to hear the voices of the public. As moderators, the Hansard Society made a policy decision to allow such comments to be made once or twice, but then to CLOSE THE DEBATE about the previous Citizenspace forum and try to focus discussion on developing an e-democracy policy for the future. This led to a number of messages being classified as off-topic and excluded from the forum. This exacerbated a sense of cynicism and paranoia amongst these few contributors who genuinely felt that the Government was determined to ignore them. As moderators, it was our sense that these contributors failed to distinguish between a focussed, democratic discussion and a free-for-all. Had this vociferous minority been allowed to dominate the forum [ASSUMPTION] it is doubtful whether the several hundred constructive comments from other contributors would have appeared."
There are just so many assumptions in this.... but aside from that - is it legitimate to not post those messages? They want to focus this discussions which has benefits in a consultative setting but when they analyse the results all the complaints are not taken into account so this skews their results....
Great to have those invites - hope to hear comments from other people!
I've never partaken in a MUD myself; I guess I don't have the time. I am partially to a spot of yahoo pool and poker though!
I will keep you informed if I come across any up-to-date practical initiatives for e-forum design. Did you see that Hansard offer a fee-based moderation course?